Two-time winner of the Baltic Handball League, Serviti Põlva is about to start their 21st season in the competition. It is old-timer’s 16th consecutive season in BHL, placing them second in that list behind the fierce domestic rival HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper.
The handball club in Põlva was established back in 1984 and they did enjoy some success already in Soviet times, winning Estonian SSR Cup in 1990 and finishing in top three of the league on three occasions. In independent Estonia, Serviti has been the record-breaking and most successful club.
First league title was won in 1997/98 and today Serviti is the record-holder with 14 golds, including the last five in succession. In addition, the club from southeastern Estonian city has claimed twelve cup wins – another record – and are currently holders of both trophies.
Sitting firmly on the domestic throne, Serviti has not won the BHL over ten years. Despite this, they are one of the most successful clubs having finished ten times in the top three. The two victories Serviti achieved are dating back to seasons 2007/08 and 2009/10. With the latter win Põlva’s number one sports club started a streak of seven top three finishes.
“It has been a long time since the last win, but we have been close. Probably the closest was in 2018, when in the final we had a three-goal lead against Cocks after 50 minutes, but still lost it. Of course we always set ourselves a goal to do well in every competition, but maybe this season is more realistic than last few years,” said Serviti’s head coach Kalmer Musting.
“I would not consider Serviti as a favourite and I agree with other clubs, who have said the season will be very interesting and there is many equal teams. And the new system is very positive – 22 international games in regular season alone can give a good development boost to clubs and players,” claimed Musting.
Serviti has retained almost the entire squad from last season, only as a right back they have replaced Stanislav Kholodiuk with Estonian international Andris Celminš, who returned home after five years in Slovenia. Eston Varusk, Kristjan Muuga and Henri Sillaste still remain from the team, who helped Serviti to their last BHL title ten years ago.
Last season Serviti won the Estonian Cup and was leading in the league before the pandemic interrupted handball and sports in general. In BHL, they had lost the opening leg of the quarter-final at home to Dragunas Klaipeda by just one goal, but the return leg was never played. Almost six months later Serviti is ready to go again.
“The pre-season tournaments in Klaipeda and Põlva proved very useful. I could see the shortcomings and we have been working on them in trainings. Unfortunately playmaker Anatoli Chezlov could not play due to injury, but otherwise I feel we have a very good team and if someone is not having a great day, there is immediately a replacement,” shared Musting his joy about the depth of the squad.
Best domestic results: 14-time Estonian champion (last 2018/19), 12-time Estonian cup-winner (last 2019)
Best European results: reached last 16 in EHF Cup 2006/07 and EHF Challenge Cup 2014/15
Best results in BHL: winner 2007/08 and 2009/10
Head coach: Kalmer Musting
Key players: Eston Varusk, Henri Sillaste, Andris Celminš, Anatoli Chezlov
Opening match in BHL: 02/09/2020 SK Tapa – Serviti Põlva
On photo: Serviti Põlva has their squad completed and ready to go. (Photo: Helin Potter)